MIT STEP offers a teacher licensing program that can be done entirely at MIT or in conjunction with courses at Wellesley College. This program licenses students to teach mathematics or science in grades 5-12. The Scheller Teacher Education Program, offered through the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, prepares MIT students to become teachers who are competent to teach in their field, willing to challenge established norms, able to bridge the boundaries among disciplines, and eager to help students develop the desire to question and explore. Click here for more info on STEP and here for more info on classes.
STEP is actively engaged in many research and development projects, designing and testing new learning technologies for use in formal and informal education. While some projects are in limited testing with partners, others are freely available for all to try and to use (some complete with curriculum and assessment). Find out more about these projects on the projects page.
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The StarLogoTNG Biology Curriculum is a set of activities that centers on the themes of ecology and evolution. It uses the simple interactions of carrots, rabbits, and wolves, along with various abiotic factors, to highlight the concepts inherent in decentralized systems that are traditionally difficult for students to understand. The projects require students to learn simple programming with the aim of fostering computer usage in science, but the major focus of each activity is system observation and data analysis.
The curriculum is intended as a set of supplementary activities for the normal ecology and evolution units. While it may be used as a stand-alone unit, there may be details regarding each topic that have been removed for modeling purposes. Thus, it is recommended that teachers intersperse traditional teaching days between activities to cover any missing detail, as well as to give students time to digest the material.
Download the entire biology curriulum as a zip file.
The unit below covers biology concepts in behavior, ecology, evolution and genetics.
Biology Curriculum At-A-Glance
For a more detailed overview of the curriculum, check out the teacher overview. Teacher guide and student activity sheets for each lesson are all in one document. (doc, pdf)
|Lesson 1 begins with just carrots, focusing on the relationships between the carrots and the abiotic elements of the ecosystem. Because the rest of the lessons deal focus primarily on biotic factors, this introductory lesson serves as a reminder that the abiotic factors are just as important.|
|Lesson 2 takes a step back from the biology theme with the VANTS (virtual ants) activity. This activity allows students to create visual designs on the StarLogoTNG SpaceLand using only very few simple commands.|
|Lesson 3 begins the ecosystem modeling, requiring the students to program their own rabbits. During this process, students learn the essential procedures that rabbits in the model follow (hop, eat, reproduce, die) that are necessary for a simple functioning ecosystem.|
|Lesson 4 introduces a gaming aspect that serves the dual purpose of entertaining the students while bringing up the role of humans in the ecosystem. The code now includes a small wolf population, and students program a first person hunter character that shoots the wolves.|
|Lesson 5 introduces the ideas of competition and selection. For simplicity, the model has returned to being only carrots and rabbits.|
|Lesson 6 brings together the driving forces behind evolution with the actual mechanism of mutation. In this project students can change the mutation rate and temperature via sliders.|
Lesson 4 introduces a gaming aspect that serves the dual purpose of entertaining the students while bringing up the role of humans in the ecosystem. The code now includes a small wolf population, and students program a first person hunter character that shoots the wolves. The model begins with a stable configuration, which students disturb by simply decreasing the age required for wolves to reproduce. The resultant overpopulation tends to overeat and wipe out the rabbits, so the hunters are used to stabilize the population. This lesson brings up ethical issues of hunting and the effects of human interactions with the ecosystem.